Monthly Archives: November 2004

Presidents: Leaders and Administrators

America has no king. Instead we have a president. We have no national saints; instead our public idols venerate our nation’s founders and past presidents. America was also, even from the beginning, an amalgam of different peoples united by ideals, not identity (“A nation of laws not men.”)

What’s the point of all of this stratospheric rhetoric that stinks of high school textbooks?

All of this percolates into the collective unconscience of Americans and frames their ideas about what kind of person should be a president. As a people, we are more likely to follow a bold, visionary leader, even if that vision is a certain folly. We want a leader, not an administrator.

This was true from the beginning. The American Revolution itself was either a masterwork of geopolitical strategy, or a military fluke that otherwise should have ended in calamitous failure. First, not many would dispute that the Treaty of Paris was signed because the British no longer felt it was worth prosecuting a war that they could certainly win if they were to bring their full military strength to bear–other colonies were more profitable. In fact, certain British politicians wanted to grant the American colonies a degree of autonomy before the conflict spiraled out of control, and, later did so in Canada, South Africa, and Australia. Those who followed the Revolutionaries did so without any real concern for the likelihood of victory; they did so because they believed it was right. The same could be said for the Confederate States’ secession.

John Adams was probably the first president to be shown the door after one term because he was a good president, but not an inspiring one. He was an administrator, and a competent one but doesn’t merit an image on Mount Rushmore or any currency. Even a flattering recent biography hasn’t done much to rehabilitate him or level his stature within the pantheon of the Founders.

This dichotomy, facile though it may be, does seem to run throughout our history. Grant was a hero but corrupted the government. LBJ was visionary but is most responsible for America’s greatest military failure.

Skip ahead to the future. The Republicans have taken the advantage here. Pick it apart all you like, but most people see Bush as a straight shooter that knows what he wants to do, even if they think it’s shit. Complexitism, Administrativism, and Kerryism are diseases that infected every losing presidential for a long, long time (I think Carter may be the exception, but he seemed to be the tonic for Watergate) including Dole, Bush I, Dukakis (even worse than Bush I), Mondale, etc. etc.

The Republicans also presented a vision for their Congressional campaign in 1994.

I’m still waiting for the Democrats to allow a candidate with a vision–even if it isn’t perfect–through their circular firing squad.

The Assumptions Beneath the "Four Words"

Some Democratic strategists are having difficulty coming up with the “Four Words” that will convey the Democrats’ core philosophy and vision. While creating a bumper-sticker size vision is important, the conventional wisdom that underlies the Four Words are equally pertinent and before a new Democratic vision can resonate that motivating sensibility must be altered.

We all know that the Republicans’ Four Words are “Less Taxes. Less Government.” If this were to actually take place, however, it would probably be bad news for the vast majority of those who voted Republican in the last election. It is a well-known fact that the Blue States’ wealth is redistributed to the Red States at the Federal level. Less government and taxes then would imply less Federal money for Southern, Plains and Rocky Mountain states. If you extend Government to mean regulations and incentives that distort markets then it is no less of a disaster for Red Staters. Across the vast middle of the country and into the Red regions of Blue states, subsidies, tariffs and free water prop up farming communities that would not withstand the competition of a free market.

So what is the “Government” that Republicans are so anxious to have less of? Well the frustrating parts of social life are the “Government” that Republicans want to get rid of. The “Government” integrated the schools; having electricity provided to rural homes for cheap is just how things are. The “Government” supports welfare queens; giving oil companies a depletion allowance is just how things are.

The political genius of the assumptions behind the Republicans’ Four Words is that Americans of any political stripe will obviously think of what they dislike most when thinking of “Less Government.” “Government” is Watergate, negative campaigns, special interest groups, irresponsible spending, the war on drugs etc. Putting a man on the moon, the interstate highway system and money that flows into every hamlet in America is not “Government.” Even when it is Republicans who give “Government” a bad name it still helps their cause so long as the “Government” looks bad.

The reality, of course, is complicated. Some subsides and incentives are good, some government programs are helpful, others are obviously wasteful; all of this depends on the eye of the beholder. Given the pessimistic bent of the press it will be hard to overcome the negative feelings that prop up the Republicans’ Four Words, but here’s my try:

Guess what ladies and gentleman, the government has always been big! Sure, some hardy pioneers went west to make their fortune, and many of them did, often with the help of the Natives. When multitudes of others followed west the indigenous peoples did not take kindly to having their land and lifestyle taken away. Those early settlers and Indians fought, but guess who finished the fight and “tamed” the West? That’s right, it was the government. That was mighty big of them, huh? Guess who then parceled out that land for pennies on the dollar to the railroads? The Government once again.

Here’s the deal. The Government has always been big. All that progressives have done is make sure that it acts favorably for average Americans as well as private business interests.

If you want wasteful government that subsidizes inefficient industries and lowers innovation brought on by a competitive government, while redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich, then vote for the Republicans. If you want a government that challenges industry to prosper while respecting the environment and providing a working wage, and that makes sure the tax burden does not fall heaviest on the poor, then vote for the Democrats: Fair Taxes. Smart Government.

The Economic Future

I have been a bear since 1997 when I advised my grandfather to stay away from dot-com stocks. And I have been a member of the Graham/Buffet school of investing since I first played the stock market with my sixth grade class–value investing, and a focus on the fundamentals, and a longer term horizon. Not that I haven’t made some fun plays, like puts on Astra-Zeneca before their renewed patent on prilosec failed.

Perverse and strange things have happened to my portfolio. I made scads of cash in 2000, and even did ok in 2001, even as I rode lower than most, like Mr. Buffet, in the late 90s.

The reason I have been a bear is because the fundamentals of our economy should not be showing the results they’re showing. After years of ridicule, I enjoyed several months of schadenfreude in 2000, but then I thought things would turn around.

They didn’t and there are a few reasons why. First, the obvious. The federal budget deficit has reached record levels and the actual debt level has too. Yet, at least so far, we haven’t seen the kinds of inflation that we should as a result of that. It’s coming. Also, the dollar is still overvalued, because a cartel of asian central banks is boosting it.

Now for some things that I might be wrong about, but that I’ve been observing. I think the CPI is an increasingly bad measure. Many consumer goods are at all time lows in real terms. Milk is cheap. Basic foodstuffs are cheap. This is the result of the Wal-Mart/Global economy. But while this has occurred, housing prices have surged, as have health care costs. College tuition. The kinds of things that define the middle class have become luxury goods, and a lot of them have been purchased on the HELOCs made available by the artificially low rates. Wages have remained stagnant, with the growth occuring in higher quintiles.

To the extent these HELOCs are adjustable rates, we’ll see a wave of bankruptcies (which are already at record highs).

So, here’s some economic reality. With the tax structure favoring the rich on pipe-dream supply-side theories, a war in Iraq, and a sputtering economy still in denial about a housing bubble there are two choices, none are pleasant.

There will have to be a massive tax hike, and it will have to be focussed on high earners. This is more risky than a lot of people think (and not for the Republicans’ reasons) because the market has more or less adjusted or begun to adjust to the Two Americas. Luxury stores are doing well, so is Wal-Mart. But we know this isn’t happening with the Republicans in control of everything. This will have to wait until sucker-do-gooder Democrats get a seat at the table so it can be blamed on them, even though it’s not their mess.

There will have to be massive spending cuts. This isn’t painless either, obviously. More soldiers and fewer weapons systems might be good (how about a policy that we peg our military strength to a factor of the rest of the world’s in terms of kill ratio and only push our weapons technology in line with that?) Anyway, anywhere you cut spending you probably kill the economy of some town or congressional district.

But neither of those possibilities are as diar as the result of doing nothing. Waiting for a crisis could mean the true end of social safety net programs, and the institutionalization of the Two Americas, and the Thirdworldization of our economy.

HBO News – A Proposal

The broad consensus of the election post-mortem is that the Democrats have a superior, more popular set of positions on the issues. Their losses are due to their inability to articulate those positions better. Whether this is because the party lacks an overarching “vision thing” or because John Kerry was not as likable as George Bush or merely because the Republicans “package” their positions better etc. is open to debate. Regardless of this, one obvious means to achieve better messageering for Democrats is to have some parity in television media, which has become a stalwart right-wing megaphone. Several excellent books have already been written on this phenomenon; lets just take it as a given that the right-wing bias in the media means that any “D” candidate is always running up hill.

There has been some thought of a liberal news network, one that would combat the conservatron Fox News in a similar way that the reasonably successful Air America radio counteracts Rush “Hillbilly Heroin” Limbaugh and his demon-spawn. Another denizen of combative talk show, point-counterpoint television, however, will not provide the changes necessary to further progressive causes and points of view. Air America radio has given the underserved left-wing audience a place to hang its hat, but it has not pushed issues and points of view the way the right-wing media was able to. The conservatrons were able to put Kerry’s out-of-context, “global test” statement into the ether after the first debate, whereas Air America and whatever other “liberal media” that exists was not able to nip the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans For Truth brouhaha in the bud.

The model that progressives should look to is not the Fox News Network. It is HBO. Network news is right now where network entertainment was about seven years ago. For the networks then the suppression of creativity forced by the mandates of advertisers and the FCC had created bland, repetitive program that was generally a dull copy of original shows that had established themselves in the late 80s and early 90s. For the networks now, decades of bitching by Republicans with a ridiculous victimization complex, reduced news budgets, and the demands of advertiser and “if it bleeds it leads” has created timid programming with almost no content save for varying degrees of repetition of the Republican party line.

In the late 90s the networks abandoned scripted television for game shows and reality shows. Free of the constraints of networks, HBO concocted daring, high-quality programming such as “Sex and The City” and “The Sopranos.” HBO proved that audiences had not left intelligent television – thousands of new customers subscribed to HBO just for its original programming and not its movies. Conversely, the networks have not had a new scripted hit until this years’ “Desperate Housewives,” which could be aptly titled “Sex and The Suburbs.”

Right now the only people who watch the nightly network news are senior citizens who developed the habit of watching the news before it devolved into inchoate right-wing blather. I posit that citizens have not left the idea of the evening news. Indeed, the growing popularity of the CBC news and The Daily Show – which analyzes issues better than network news does – is a testament to the utility of evening news.

A pay cable, commercial-free news network whose flagship program would be a half-hour telecast that competes directly with the networks’ broadcast, along with other intelligent, investigative programming would be to the news what “The Sopranos” was to scripted television. By doing research and making investigations, this news network would influence the rest of the media in the way a lefty Fox clone could not. By uncovering and highlighting unpleasant truths, it would break stories that the rest of the media would avoid to its peril. Other programming could include documentaries, and news directed towards underserved audiences such as the young.

HBO would be the logical place to do this. It already has an established brand, “Real Time with Bill Maher” is an infinitely better talk show that any of the others on TV, and “Real Sports” runs laps around ESPN and the Fox Sports empire. If they won’t do it than a wise progressive with money should. The network would not have to be officially liberal – Fox is not officially conservative – but suffice to say, I believe that more truth in reporting could only help the progressive cause.

Now They Expect Results?

I’ll be oh so happy to say I told you so.

Evangelicals are staging a “pray-in” to prevent Arlen Specter’s elevation to the chairmanship of the Senate judicial committee. Of course, that’s not just a symbolic post, but he would have to take fairly egregious steps to single-handedly thwart any Bush nominee. It remains to be seen whether he would vote against an anti-choice nominee, especially if that nominee is replacing a Justice that is already anti-choice.

But this furor over Specter may signal an interesting change in the relationship between radical Christian groups and the GOP. For so long, their brazen strategy was to court religious groups by promising to fight unwinnable cultural battles and ignoring the rest of those peoples’ needs. Now, after the reelection of Bush and the widening of his majority in the Congress, they are finally demanding results after 30 years.

I don’t believe the path to the White House for a Democrat lies through courting one-issue anti-abortion voters. I believe there are plenty of people who vote Republican for reasons of security, and the misconception that their economic fortunes are better handled by less government regulation and taxes. Fewer forms and an easier tax system would go a long way to convincing a lot of these folks, who are often culturally liberal is much, much easier. But you would certainly have more time to focus on these voters if the Evangelicals don’t motivate as highly the next time.

You might even be able to chip away at them by promising to reduce abortions without banning them. This isn’t hard, especially in tandem with a tax, wealth, and education fairness platform.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that the homophobia-manic folks have been getting screwed with their pants on for 30 years by corporate, Paris Hilton promoting GOP Reverse Robin Hoods.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that it is bloggers and journalists who provide the building blocks for this insight, and not those of the Kerry campaign.

All the more reason, I think, to support Dean for DNC chair.

The Da Vinci Code

I see today that Tom Hanks will play the lead in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code (Or, “Foucault’s Pendulum for Dummies”).

I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, though everyone tells me it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, my sense is they are “misunderestimating” my intellectual snobbery.

Having said that, I probably should check it out and make notes, because I’ve become interested in writing a book review not about books like this, including Illuminatus!, Foucault’s Pendulum, and (I guess) The Da Vinci Code.

I’d like to explore the “secret group that controls civilization” myth — it’s fascinating, almost a form of deism.

Save it.

Dear “Progressive” Community:

Shut up.

Please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up. We barely enough senators to survive a cloture vote, and we have an inevitable confirmation fight to wage. Arguing over the meris of tinfoil hat voter fraud conspiracies, the non-relative merits of the new attorney general appointee (can he really be worse than Ashcroft? really? Of course not).

At the federal level, we have very little political capital to spend. You’re not going to use it to fight the Iraq war; a window for that may or may not present itself, but until it does it can’t be made an issue. You won’t be able to use the filibuster to shut down the government and not have it come back on you, so budget and tax fights are useless.

No, the only thing we can do is try to prevent an ultra-right nominee to the court. That is the one thing that can’t be undone if the government is restored in 2006 or 2008. Save it for that. That’s not to say that there should be no criticism, or even that there should be no “no” votes. Keep voting against them to build a record for future elections. But at this point, their agenda is inevitable. The best strategy is to let them overreach, as they surely will, without looking as acquiescent as in 2002.

In the meantime, shut up and let the Republicans make the bed they will have to sleep in. They are now in charge.

(Getting Democrats to play smart strategy is about as easy as herding cats. sigh)

The Phases of Grief

1. Shock – Started about 7pm PST, 11/2.

2. Denial – Most lefty blogs are still here, trying to assert that “Kerry won” and we wuz robbed.

3. Bargaining – Harry Reid will call for filibusters! Does the Supreme Court have a quorum rule?

4. Guilt – Did I give enough money? What else could I have done?

5. Anger – Fucking Kerry was a jerk. The Iowa / NH primary system is bogus.

6. Depression – Should I even have children?

7. Acceptance and hope – [Candidate Name] 2008!

One thing I don’t see a lot of people mention is sort of the opposite of some of the Dem-hope-spin. I heard Pelosi say yesterday that Kerry got the second most votes ever. That means that Bush got the most votes ever. It means that a few years ago, this election would have been a Kerry blowout, but there has been a rightward turn in this country.

I don’t think a lot of people dispute that, but I also don’t think a lot of people, especially on the left side of the Internet are really taking it too seriously. They pay lip service, sure, but when the chips are down, they’re willing to put their hopes and prayers on a candidate like Kerry, whose only hope to win was a high turnout in his favor. He was never going to start a movement unless he won and was a preisdent for the ages; in other words, his candidacy had no chance of this.

The problem is, a movement candidate, like Nader or Dean, has little chance of winning.

Lots of people talk about Goldwater and the seeds he sew. I wonder if LBJ hadn’t botched Viet Nam, or even if he had just run again, if we would be having this discussion. Today, of course, we have the very real likelihood that Iraq will end up being worse than Viet Nam, if not in actual combat fatalities in terms of everything else.

But, whether or not it had anything to do with Goldwater, conservatives were able to build a movement in response to the social uphevals of the times, and the reflexive latter-day New Deal government program for all that ails you mainstream political culture.

They knew what their mission was. And we’re starting to identify what ours is.

Hey! Don't you know there's a war on?

“We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself…. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases.”

- George Orwell

“Looking Back at the Spanish War” 1943.

“I am overjoyed by the outcome of the elections. The moral majority has prevailed in a war against secular humanism…. The academics and Hollywood lost in their bid to redefine morality in accordance with their humanistic and fallen views…. The war of morals will continue in this country and in the world.”

- Dan Sickler of Medford, Oregon

“Letter to the Editor” in the Oregonian November 9, 2004

I have taken Orwell’s words way out of context. He was talking about fighting in an actual shooting war, with real combat and death, whereas this bit of opinion is about electoral politics. Be that as it may, it is likely that Dan Sickler would agree with Orwell’s point, even though Orwell was one of those damn secular humanists. For all of the eschaton-lunacy implied in Mr. Sickler’s letter, at least he recognizes that he is fighting a war. It may not be a real war, but it is an honest battle over the government and meaning of the United States of America, the world’s lone superpower, it is not just a difference in opinion.

For all of the passion, and yes anger, of blue America the comfy professionals who ran the Kerry campaign did not appear to realize that the battle was joined. They ignored the figurative war here, and wanted to ignore the shooting war abroad.

The Bush team never bothered with a Rose Garden strategy. They barely aired any positive television commercials. Instead they first spent a fortune to “define” Kerry and then – through their “Swift Boat” appendage – spent a fortune to slander his war record and then ran a campaign based almost purely on fear.

The Kerry team’s response was to first hope that the self-evident contradiction of the Bushies scare tactics with their “help is on the way” slogan would turn people around. This strategy was undercut, however, by the inability to articulate anything meaningful about the war on terror and the war in Iraq. In The New York Times today some Kerry advisors lamented that events in Iraq stopped the economy from being the focus of the campaign. Well of course it did! How could it not? The war on terror and Iraq are the profound events of our times. Polls showed that Bush’s strongest attribute was his perceived ability to fight terror. That perception had everything to do with the SCLM treating him like a demi-god after 9/11, and little to do with his foolhardy strategy of trying to start a proxy-war against terrorism in Iraq. Kerry only began to make a comeback in the election when he took on the Bush-is-fighting-terrorism-well myth. Once he did, the gap between Bush and Kerry on “ability to fight terrorism” shrank. If this had been the strategy from the beginning then Kerry might very well have won, after all, the truth was on his side (unlike the Swift Boat group).

There was a time when Democrats were nasty SOBs. Whether it was attempting to pack the court or emasculating “Cactus” Jack Garner, FDR was not afraid to take names and kick ass. Truman gave ‘em hell; JFK out-hawked Nixon; LBJ stole a senate seat and stopped at nothing to gain power; and Clinton never started it, but he always finished it. The great progressive gains of the twentieth century were accomplished with a lot of sharp elbows. Do you think that Dan Sickler would balk at having the “secular humanists” wrung up? You can’t reason with such a man, you have to beat him. Unfortunately, Dan Sickler, and all that he represents, is fighting with a sword, and progressives have been left with smelly diseases.

Prophecy?

I wrote last January

Pseudo-liberals like Mickey Kaus proclaim to the audiences of Slate.com and NPR that most Americans don’t share liberals’ hatred of Bush. We have a hard time remembering a similar Conservative Cassandra in the late ‘90s warning Congressional Republicans to soften their approach on Clinton (which forgetfulness puts us in line with most Americans who seem to forget the intense hatred of Clinton stoked by the Right just a few short years ago when discussing “Bush Hatred”). But Kaus gets his spotlight from being the alleged liberal that criticizes liberals, and there is no such analog on the other side. That alone should inform.

Even if you accept that all of the mud flung at him hardly stuck to Clinton, at the dawn of 2004 we must ask how much of Clinton’s legacy is left. The vitriolic right took Congress, hamstrung Clinton’s circuit court appointments, and lubricated Bush’s 2000 victory on many levels.

Can anyone credibly state that the take-no-prisoners techniques of the Right are a failure? Can anyone therefore credibly argue that the Center and Left should take the high road and expect victory as a result? The answer is no. Non-conservatives from moderate Republicans to radical leftists need to do some soul searching. The Far Right agenda of the administration is not a majority position in America either, yet the passion of their beliefs has carried them into a governing majority; indeed, a near Constitutional-amendment majority. Everyone else needs to decide how seriously they believe what they believe and ask what they would do to win that victory. Untold thousands have given their lives for our freedom—is it too much to ask merely to lower one’s standards for the sake of all of us? Principled victory is only available against a principled enemy.

While this Magazine surely engages in analysis of policies and their logics (developing a new progressive agenda) that can result in criticism of liberal policies, unlike Mickey Kaus we find it hardly productive to give aid and comfort to our enemies because our allies are “making the sausage” in a way that turns our stomach. Call us Machiavellian; call us utilitarian, but we take our beliefs seriously enough to fight for them.

This is why we endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination and the Presidency of the United States. We are certainly not taken by all of his policy planks, many of which smell “governorish” and will need tweaks on a national stage. But, if presidents were elected for their policy-savvy, Al Gore would have won in a landslide. Presidents are elected on their aura more than anything else.

It should be added that despite this endorsement, we find any of the Democratic candidates preferable to Bush. Indeed, even a Bush I-restoration would represent a giant step forward for America. General Clark is an admirable man with an impressive resume. John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are also praise-worthy. But certain other Democrats have revealed an ego-mania that is sickening, hoping to put a hex a campaign that represents our best hope. The Liebermann and Kerry campaigns represent the lack of unity and prep-school arrogance that turns off so many voters to Democrats.

Dean, on the other hand, generates energy whenever he speaks. Dean is also a scrapper. And for these reasons, he is the enemy of the “reasonable” Democratic establishment who have “reasonabled” away our government to the Far Right.It is time for a fight. Later generations will wonder why the opposition stood by so idly, being practically the hand-maiden of those who killed the American dream. Even in defeat there will be more honor.

And Now….

With all the passion. With Nader not being a serious factor. With liberal radio. It still was not enough.

My predictions were wrong. Although I am not sure about the percentages, it seems that turnout was fairly high. Still, Bush won a substantive share of the electorate, and the electoral college by about 120,000 votes in Ohio. It was not a total blow out, it was not Mondale or Dukakis… but still. All of the verve; everrything that had been building for four years was not enough. And whatever minor voting problems there were the election was fair and square – regardless of my worries about literal fights at the polls. No one can call 2004 a Coup D’etat like 2000.

Now comes a big choice. It is easy for Democrats to say that they really won in ’00, and if not for 9/11 they would have the presidency and perhaps a majority in the senate now. It is no small thing to unseat a president after an event like that. Even if that president has been as incompetent, foolhardy and terrible as Bush.

To me it seems that the Democrats can continue on the moderate but inchoate course they are on now and fight a long and slow war of losing attrition, slowly having great plains and southern senators picked off while losing presidential elections by 5 – 8 percent, yet winning the west coast and the north east.

Or, they can dream big and start talking about huge ideas that time will prove necessary, just as it did with social security, farm price controls, desegregation and medicare. How about reforming the economic system so the ingenuity of the free market reponds to the problems of pollution and global warming, so that subsidies do not prop up old, sedentary industries like coal? It may mean giving up West Virginia from the first, but who cares? How about arguing for the federal decriminalization of marijuana? Which will be the first state to “legalize it” to gain back revenue lost from the “drown the beast” mentality to taxes coupled with the desire to have high quality schools and services? For a long time the west coast and parts of the north east might be a lone blue bastion, but these ideas are necessary enough to sweep the nation, when worst finally comes to worst as it did in the Great Depression.

Having united, passionate liberals was just not quite enough this time. Of course it wasn’t fair. The so-called “mainstream” media is a right-wing megaphone. But so it goes. Having a credible candidate that could not defeat a president as terrible as Bush is a sign that the core needs to change.

9/11 won’t go away, and the media will not become balanced any time soon. The left must be brave enough to fight a high stakes battle, or else be slowly whittled away into a long winter of irrelevancy.

Last thoughts.

I may expand on this later, but I’m taking an extended vacation from politics. Which calls into doubt the existence of this blog.

But, for now.

I’m sure there is already a chorus of “Kerry was the wrong candidate” and another chorus of “don’t blame Kerry in a knee-jerk manner.” Here’s my view. Kerry was the wrong candidate for 2004. The alleged basis for picking Kerry was that he was “more electable.” I never believed that for one minute. If we were so hot and bothered for a military man who had few campaigning skills, we should have picked Wes Clark. But Democrats are utterly unqualified to pick credible candidates for red states based on their idea of who is more electable. I’m getting convinced that it wasn’t Dean either, though there’s a good argument he should have been the bottom half of a ticket. Where was Edwards? We hardly saw him after the DNC.

The gamble with Dean would have been that the Iraq war would have had to go bad. If Abu Ghraib had been broken in December, Dean would have won the nomination for better or worse. Dean had a message and was forceful. Dean could have credibly argued that Iraq was a mistake in the war on terror (as he had been the entire time).

Yeah, I know. Don’t blame the candidate. I’m not. I’m blaming idiot Democrats for picking him on the basis he was more electable. Stupid.

We were so worried about Dean being McGovern that we implicitly rejected the belief that the Iraq war was a mistake. You can’t have it both ways. That’s sort of the problem with Kerry. To many, he looked fake whether he was or not. I’m sure a lot of them though he was a sheep in wolves’ clothing, so to speak. Clark could have done that too. Edwards, Gephardt, and Kerry were all stained that way.

It sounds like a big gamble. Put all your chips on the war. But if you don’t, you won’t be able to convince most people to change presidents in the middle of a war. If it had been going well, only a much worse economy than the one we had could have done the trick–and that would be a gamble too.

So now, with precariously situated red-state senators like Max Baucus, the Republicans will have an almost filibuster proof majority on cultural issues. We will have a radically conservative supreme court for 20 years.

For all our talk about accountability in the Bush administration, if heads don’t roll in the party right now (this means you Mr. McAullife, you and about 10 others) then we’re a mockery.

At the Chestnut Tree Cafe

Total numbness.

Well, so let it be. We’ve got Bush and his Congress. They’re going to press his agenda.

Here’s what the problem is. I’m a professional, with an income between me and my wife of nearly six figures. I’m a white male. I’m married. I’m nominally Christian (in other words, I celebrate Christmas and I’m not jewish or islamic.) I’m not going to need social security probably. I’m probably not going to need welfare ever. I have all the education I can stand. I have an excellent heatlh care plan. I don’t have any children (yet) that need public schools.

So how or why on earth am I a liberal? Because to me, I feel that a more productive society can be had if we nuture our “talent pool” and get the best prospects, no matter what their background. This goes for children in education, small businesses versus big business. I also think that it goes against this kind of meritocracy to allow trans-generational wealth to be pushed too far. And I think all of that work for the future is moot if we are constantly at war and destroying our planet.

So, my beliefs were repudiate by most of America today, but, strangely my identity was not. People like me will survive, perhaps even thrive for a while, under the conservative regime, but more and more will be left behind.

Voter Turnout

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I’ve seen an awful lot of anecdotes. Maybe the asymptotic approach to data comes with tons of them. Dunno. Anyway…

People in line were commenting that they’ve never seen a line like this in 30 years. It took me 45 minutes to vote and I showed up when they opened. Heavily liberal area where I live.

My Predictions

States for Kerry, in approximate East to West order: ME, NH, VT, NY, MA, CT, RI, NJ, DE, MD, DC, FL, PA, OH, MI, WI, IL, IA, MN, NM, CA, OR, WA, HI.

State for Bush in approximate East to West order: VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, AL, TN, KY, IN, MS, LA, AR, MO, TX, OK, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, WY, CO, AZ, UT, ID, NV, AK.

Kerry EVs: 311

Bush EVs: 227

Popular Vote:

Kerry: 50.2%

Bush: 48.6%

Nader: .7%

Others: .5%

Rational: I looked at aggregate state polls since Oct. 30 in states I considered close (PA, NJ, NH, FL, OH, MI, AR, TN, NM, AZ, CO) and I corrected slightly for the Strategic Vision polls (which are done by the GOP) and the Gallup Polls that are based on an assumption of LOWER turnout amongst mioriities. I gave Kerry the win in most states where he was generally within the margin of error. Why? Because all indications point to this election having a monumental turnout. This means that both more Democrats and Republicans will vote, but the fact is that there are more Democratic voters to turn out than Republicans. That is why Republicans are doing all they can to “challenge” new Democratic voters (while also making an earnest and decent effort to get their voters to the polls).

In 2000 Al Gore basically gained 3.5% points of the national vote on election day, despite not having enough money to mount a challenge in some states (Ohio especially), having a stronger Nader campaign that threatened to sap his strengthand enthusiasm in several states and having less than enthused backing amongst supporters. Did he get the big election day bounce becuase of the Bush DUI story, was it because of his ground game, or some combo of both? The last option is probably true (along with some last second changes of heart by Nader voters). This year Kerry has a much weaker challenge from Mr. Nader and record numbers of canvassers and an enthusiastic following – if they are more for Bush’s defeat than Kerry’s victory, it makes no matter.

Another factor that favors Kerry is early voting. Early voting has already ameliorated problems like the 60,000 “missing” absentee ballots in Florida. It has given voters who are most likely to be disenfranchised a better shot at having their vote count, that is not to say that all voters who voted early are Democrats, but the Republican early-voters were going to have their votes counted no matter what, that is not the case for the Democrats. This is why I have moved FL to the Kerry column after feeling for weeks that the Bush Junta would be able to steal it once again. Also, expect Tennessee – which has had a surge of early voting – to be surprisngly close.

Finally, there is the youth and college vote. The writers of The Note said that any campaign that counts on youth votes should be terrified, and they are generally correct. As I have written several times before, however, this year is unpredented. Young people are taking the resurrection of the Draft much more seriously than the Baby Boomer media. There has already been a surge of registraion and voting on college campuses where more people are voting early now than they did at all in last election.

Switching Ohio and Florida would change this election to Bush. Expect both races to be tight and for the GOP to challenge several thousand votes immediately after the polls close.

Also, expect Kerry to win Oregon by about 9%.

Here is a final predictive element. Approximately 50% of registered voters cast a ballot in 2000. That number is expected to rise to 55% in this election. If over 58% of all eligible voters cast a ballot, expect Kerry to win, if it is under 58%, odds favor Bush the further the turnout is away from 58%.

A final post-script for this election:

“America is not a wicked country; we cannot abide a wicked government.”

- Frank Church (D-ID) 1972.

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